We are devoting too many of our best minds to lawyering

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Today’s quote (and the second in our series of Wednesday quotes on careers) comes, perhaps surprisingly, from Supreme Court Justice Scalia. I’m not generally a Scalia fan, being far to liberal to appreciate his worldview, but this quote from his C-SPAN interviews last year (as summarized in the WSJ Law Blog) really gets to the meat of my argument to all prospective law students that you should do anything, anything, you love, but you should not go to law school:

Well, you know, two chiefs ago, Chief Justice Burger, used to complain about the low quality of counsel. I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise. I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they  are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.

There you have it, folks. Do something that matters, but do not become a lawyer. Trust me on this.

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